We Don't Wanna Hear It: Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to NSA's Bulk Collection Program

The U.S. Supreme Court unceremoniously denied a legal challenge brought against the National Security Agency for its domestic spying program that has allowed for the bulk collection of the phone data of millions of U.S. cell phone users.

The challenge, brought by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), was unique in that it was the first of its kind to reach the Supreme Court by bypassing lower federal courts.

That was necessary, according to EPIC, because no other federal court would have the authority to challenge the secrecy inherent in the NSA program or weigh in on the closed-door authorization the spy agency received from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) which approved the process by which Verizon was compelled to hand over all of its customer records—which number in the tens of millions—to the government.

The existence of the program only came to public light after a FISC order was leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and published in a newspaper article by journalist Glenn Greenwald in June.

As Wired reported on Monday following the court’s decision:

Amie Stepanovich, an attorney who works with EPIC, responded to the Court’s decision by tweeting:

And Lyle Denniston, writing at ScotusBlog, explains:

Among the other challenges making their way through the lower courts, the ACLU will be presenting its challenge to the NSA in a federal court in Manhattan at the end of this week. Like EPIC, ACLU is specifically challenging legality of the bulk spying on the telephone communications of U.S. citizens and residents.

“This kind of dragnet surveillance is precisely what the Fourth Amendment was meant to prohibit,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer, one of two ACLU lawyers who will argue in court Friday. “The Constitution does not permit the NSA to place hundreds of millions of innocent people under permanent surveillance because of the possibility that information about some tiny subset of them will become useful to an investigation in the future.”

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